Review of Gay Pornography: Representations of Sexuality and Masculinity by John Mercer. I. B. Tauris. 2017. Review by Brandon Arroyo, Concordia University, Canada. The title of John Mercer’s book certainly intends to make an impression. With an assertive, commanding, and all-encompassing title like Gay Pornography, one eagerly wonders if this might be the contemporary sequel to Thomas Waugh’s foundational Hard to Imagine (1996). However, Mercer’s aims are far more modest - yet no less essential - than Waugh’s. I bring this up to suggest that the over-reaching title ultimately overshadows the sensible and focused line of thought maintained throughout. A more accurate title might have been: Gay Pornography’s Keywords, because of its success in articulating a vocabulary describing the role of gay pornographic culture within masculinist society. This is the book’s primary contribution: to provide readers with a unifying discursive framework through which to understand gay pornography’s contemporary mediascape. Mercer’s keywords are the linguistic tools essential to producing dynamic pornographic studies in the future.
review by Martin Fradley, University of Brighton. In their introduction to Beyond Speech, Hilkje Charlotte Hänel and Mari Mikkola state that this new collection of essays has two core aims: firstly, to take stock of extant feminist debates on pornography and, secondly, to ‘examine some newer lines of inquiry and investigate what they can tell us about still-unsettled conceptual and political questions’ (11). The ‘speech’ of the book’s title refers to Catherine MacKinnon’s (1987) famous legal argument that pornography should be understood as a series of violent ‘speech acts’, which ultimately serve to silence, subordinate and harm all women. Tellingly, the writers here almost all begin with the premise that pornography can be ‘harmful’, and Beyond Speech contains a dozen original essays that subsequently defend, challenge and re-evaluate some of the most important feminist interventions in what was once (rather quaintly) referred to as ‘the pornography debate’.
Author: Darshana Mini. Journal: Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies 7(2). December. 2016, 127-150.
by Lynn Comella, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, US. Susie Bright was not yet the nationally known author and trailblazer Susie Sexpert when she walked through the doors of Good Vibrations for the first time in 1980. She was 22 years old and lived around the corner from the store at Twentieth and Valencia Streets. Bright remembers that initial visit vividly. Honey Lee Cottrell, who would later become Bright’s lover and collaborator, was working behind the counter. Cottrell, a butch lesbian with prematurely greying hair, was opening envelopes that contained a single quarter – the amount that the store’s founder, Joani Blank, was charging at the time for an itemised list of vibrators that doubled as the company’s mail-order catalogue. Bright watched curiously as Cottrell opened the envelopes and stacked the quarters, one on top of the other, next to the cash register. ‘Why don’t you just put them in the register?’ she finally asked. ‘We don’t know how to record it’, Cottrell replied. ‘It’s not a sale and no one can figure out what it is, so we just pile them up on the side and Joani says she will deal with it later’.
by Neil Jackson, University of Lincoln, UK. Has anybody seen a good ‘sex work’ recently? At best, it is a question that is likely to cause mildly embarrassed befuddlement in the casual film enthusiast. At worst, anybody even mildly attuned to sociolinguistic nuances may infer suggestion of voyeuristic interest in the workaday toils of prostitution. Either way, ‘sex work’ is a generic term that has been deployed by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to distinguish the titillating, affective charge of wanton hardcore pornography. It is a phrase that has become the board’s common descriptor for hardcore films with an R18 classification (the ‘R’ being an abbreviation of ‘restricted’). This limits sale or projection to premises specially licensed to handle such material, and separates it from non-pornographic, dramatic or documentary feature film formats that present sexually explicit themes and images for an adult audience at the 18 certificate level. Essentially, if the BBFC determines that a film is pornographic in nature and intent (that is, designed primarily to sexually arouse the spectator), it is dealt with as a ‘sex work’.
by Ruth Beresford, University of Sheffield, UK. Pornography is something that we all need to talk about. Whether you like it or not, whether you use it or not, pornography has significant social, political and legal implications for us all. New technologies and the internet are constantly changing the pornographic landscape, making the sexually explicit more accessible, available and presented as more diverse than ever before. My own research concerns women’s lived experiences of pornography. It investigates the ways in which women experience, perceive and feel about pornography. I have recently launched the Living With Porn(ography) Project in order to develop an understanding of the ways in which one can experience pornography. Together with a group of women, the project is designed to examine what it means for our lives whether as a user, performer or someone just navigating it within society.
by I.Q. Hunter, De Montfort University, UK. On the face of it, Jaws (1975) seems an unlikely candidate for the porn treatment. Spielberg’s film is entirely male-centred - so I guess a gay version with three-way romps on the Orca might make sense – but the characters’ motivations have no obvious erotic component or indeed reference, aside from Quint calling out ‘Stop playing with yourself, Hooper’ to the lounging ichthyologist. Sex as a theme is not there to be exploited as with, say, A Clockwork Orgy (1995), the porn version of A Clockwork Orange (1971), which feeds off the obsession with sex, power and breasts that drives the narrative of the original. And the piscine motif of Jaws doesn’t immediately suggest the erotic, unless one considers the ‘eels for pleasure’ section of the Animal Farm (1981) bestiality compilation video that did the rounds in Britain in the 1980s, or urban myths involving Led Zeppelin, a groupie and a shark. That said, it is doubtless true that any film can be ‘pornified’ insofar as narrative gaps in the original can be filled with sex scenes, and the characters’ motivations refocused on seeking opportunities for them.